In this post, we're going to explore what's required to write a skill in Progression. We're going to explain how a skill fits together, and why Progression's skill content is designed that way. We're also going to talk through some options if you want to use skills but not write them yourself.
Skills, whether they are called behaviours, competencies or abilities, are vital to frameworks.
There are a number of ways of populating your framework with skills. You can acquire pre-existing content from companies that have similar frameworks, or you can pick and choose from skills libraries.
A common approach is to write skills from scratch. Doing so allows you complete flexibility in what you include, making them uniquely yours.
A couple of caveats: Be aware that writing your skills from scratch can turn your framework build from weeks to months, and care needs to be taken not to be paralysed by the choices available.
We're going to look at:
What we mean by a skill
Planning our skills
Writing our skills
If you're not sure what we mean by a progression framework, or you want some help creating them, start with our series, What is a progression framework, Why do I need a progression framework, and How do I create a progression framework.
A skill in Progression is an ability, behaviour or competency. Each skill has a set of levels within it, through which someone can grow as they progress.
Each skill in Progression is broken down into various components - all of which we need to write. As per the diagram below they are:
Skill name - the name of the skill
Skill description - the overall description of the skill
Level description - the description of each level
Examples - example as to how someone might achieve their skill level, designed to give practical help to someone looking to grow their skill
The type of skills that we're designing here are optimised for progression conversations, not for detail. These skills tend to be 'zoomed out' guide rails for conversation, rather than hyper-detailed, tick all the boxes type skills. This is because we're looking to limit the skills in our framework to 8-12, and that progression conversations are the ultimate goal, not super detailed frameworks.
The process for writing skills is twofold. The thinking and planning around what the skills are going to be, and how they're going to be structured, and then the process of writing the skills.
Research the skills industry expects for a discipline (Sales, HR, Engineering etc)
Distil the range of skills required for a role to 3-4 skills (in order to have 8-12 total skills in our frameworks)
Choose the skill names
Choose ideally 3, max 4, example titles for each skill
Write skill description
Write each of the 5 level descriptions for the skill
Write each of the 3 examples for each level for the skill
We’re going to use the skill in the image above, Negotiating and Closing, one of our sales craft skills, as an example.
Find source material - ideally four+ different sources - these could be blogs, other frameworks, interviews with managers, skills podcasts, and crucially from discussions with your team.
list all the possible skills from those sources
Merge any repeats, and separate into your different categories, such as craft skills, and core skills. You’ll work on one category at the time, but the principles are the same.
Group similar skills - aim for 3-4 different groups if possible. These groups are going to become the base for our skills. This number is based on there being 3-4 skills in the craft category, roughly one third of the total number of skills (8-12). Check out How Many Skills Should I Have In My Framework for more information on this.
If impossible to get to that level of distillation, there are three options:
create more groups (ideally this would be avoided on basis of keeping frameworks simple and plus the time it takes to write each skill)
rank skills and ignore least important
see if you can zoom out slightly and re-group in order to get 3-4 skill groups
Determine the name for each skill by taking the group and determining a collective title. e.g. The list of skills of:
Can establish purchase timeline
Closes the sale
Can drive buying decisions
Understanding buying process
Differentiates and overcomes objections
Can negotiate a price
Is results driven
Is summarised to become... Negotiating and Closing
Do this with all your groups and you should have 3-4 headline skills.
Once you have your skill names, draw up a list of all the examples that could fit within them.
This includes the 'smaller skills' from step 3 (Can establish purchase timeline, Closes the sale etc) but also could include previously disregarded skills, or skills so granular you'd not considered them to date, but have become clear now that you've decided on a headline skill name.
Group these examples or delete the least appropriate/significant until you have 3 (or max 4).
Negotiating and Closing's become:
Establishes the buying process
Drives buying decisions
Write the skill description. This is a one sentence description of the skill. It often starts with 'The ability to:' For Negotiating and Closing:
The ability to move a deal forward, negotiate a price and close the sale.
The next two stages can happen alongside one another, or in the reverse order. Sometimes it is easier to write the examples of how to achieve a skill level, and then the skill level. Other times the other way around.
This is where we are writing the content that will grow across the skill - so each level becomes more challenging/comprehensive. To do this we need a broad definition of levels. At Progression we use levels of impact
Level 1 - Assist
Level 2 - impact at a project level
Level 3 - impact at a team level
Level 4 - impact across multiple teams
Level 5 - impact across the organisation or even industry
Use these levels to break down your skill into an appropriate description for that level. Level 1 Negotiating and Closing:
Is able to understand how to move a deal forward, including the importance of navigating objections and driving a decision to buy.
For each example of a skill e.g. Overcoming objections (from Negotiating and Closing), write a list of ways (statements) as to how this might be achieved - go back to the source material, this is snippets and phrases that speak to the example. So our statements for Overcoming objections:
Vision to see objectives before they arrive
Clarify to find root cause
Strategically engage support team members
Differentiates between themselves and alternative solutions
See an objection as cross/upsell as appropriate
Use these phrases, alongside the level information you used in step 2. to help write each example - be aware that the more complex statements should only come in for higher levels.
That feels like a lot of work. Is there any other way of doing it?
At Progression we're trying to make the process of framework building as easy as possible. And we know that writing skills can take a while. So we have:
A library of pre-written skills for use in full, or as a template for the future
An AI-powered skill generator to get your skills 80% written fast, so you can refine from that point
Collections of skills we know work well together to pick and choose from
Complete pre-built template frameworks for those that want to get started as fast as possible
If you can’t find a skill, template or collection you want please let us know!